I’ve always loved reading. I remember getting certificates for being a “book worm” at Padiham library from an early age, and the passion has stuck with me ever since. I find it a fantastic way to escape from reality for a while and to unwind before going to sleep. As part of my “quantified self” project for 2014 I decided to start tracking how many books I am reading. This is partly to help me remember where I am up to with the various series I am reading, but also just to see how much I am reading. I am using the “goodreads” website and iPad app to track how I am doing, and have set myself a target of 50 books for the year. As you will see from the picture below I am ahead of schedule halfway through the year.
I’ve decided that on a monthly basis I will post short reviews of each of the books I have read. I’ve been using reviews on goodreads and various blogs to identify books to add to my “to read” list so I figure its the least I can do to try and help others find books they may not normally read. So please find below my reviews for June 2014. The books listed demonstrate that I am not a “high brow” reader, I read for pure pleasure. They also illustrate how the books I am reading at the moment tend to fall into three main categories:
- CAN DO NO WRONG AUTHORS. The best example of this category is Stephen King. I will normally read any new book by one of these authors as soon as it is published because I have liked them for so many years. Their books aren’t always perfect, but I know I am almost certain to enjoy them greatly.
- TICK THREE BOXES BOOKS. If a book ticks the following three requirements I will almost certainly give it a go: (1) It is the first of a series of crime novels. (2) The series is based in the UK (bonus points if it is the NW). (3) The first book is on offer for Kindle at less that £2. I’ve discovered numerous excellent series in this category over the last couple of years, which either illustrates there are many good authors out there, or I am an undiscerning reader. You can decide which.
- YOU HAVE MY SUPPORT BOOKS. These tend to be new books from authors of the series in the “tick three boxes” category, but they are standalone books, or the first books in a new series from the same author. Because I’ve enjoyed the series I will almost certainly demonstrate loyalty to the author by trying their new works.
This approach means that for the foreseeable future I am unlikely to run out of reading material. The main challenge is keeping track of new books that fall into these categories. Amazon is scarily good at recommending books for me based on my previous purchases. The goodreads website provides further assistance, as does registering for updates from authors’ websites, or following their twitter feeds. Of course I then have an excuse to compile everything into my own lists, with colour coding and everything, to get an overall picture. Anyway, before I get too carried away with telling you about my lists I present to you my reviews for June 2014.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A “can do no wrong” book. I’ve been a fan of Stephen King forever so I always look forward to his new books. They rarely disappoint and this one certainly didn’t. There is nothing supernatural to this story, it is a high suspense thriller, about a recently retired detective (Bill Hodges) getting lured back into the hunt for “the one that got away”. Mr Mercedes is the villain who deliberately drove his (or maybe not his) car (a Mercedes of course)into a crowd of people killing eight people and injuring many more. The main story takes place some months later when Bill has retired, leaving this as his one unsolved case. Mr Mercedes begins to taunt him about this fact and inevitably Bill, and two friends, get drawn into trying to stop him committing another atrocity. It is full of twists and turns, and keeps the reader on the edge of his seat as you would expect. Recommended for all Stephen King fans, and anyone who hasn’t read any of his books and wants a good example of his work.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A “you have my support” book. I decided to read this because I have read and enjoyed a number of Neil White’s previous books (the four (according to my list anyway) “Garrett & McGanity” books, and the standalone book, “Beyond Evil”). I am also drawn to books that are set in places I know, and all the books so far (from what I recall) are set in the North West, with this one based in Manchester. The story revolves around two brothers, Joe and Sam Parker, both understandably still affected by the unsolved murder of their sister many years previously. Joe is a lawyer, Sam a detective, and both get involved in investigating a series of murders that is inevitably linked to the past. Overall I enjoyed it, the story kept moving fast, with many twists and turns, although it did stretch credulity at one or two points, not enough to spoil it though. Recommended for people who enjoy crime thrillers based in the UK, and in Manchester in particular.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Another “you have my support” book. I decided to read this one as I am a huge fan of Kerry Wilkinson’s “DS Jessica Daniel” series – there have been seven (and one novella) of these so far, with another coming in September 2014, and at least three more already confirmed. The series is set in Manchester and Andrew Hunter featured in one of the earlier books. He is a Private Investigator working on a case trying to find out what happened to Nicolas Carr who disappeared some months ago on his 18th birthday and has not been seen since. Andrew has a sidekick, Jenny, who is a little eccentric (not sure if this is the right word), which makes for some entertaining exchanges, and some brilliant ideas to keep the story moving. Overall it is a good story, with many twists and turns, and ending with an exciting race against time. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the Jessica Daniel series but would still recommend it.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A “ticks three boxes” book. This one met my criteria of being the first of a crime series based in the UK, offered for a bargain price on the UK Kindle store. The bargain price worked as I have already read the second in the series and am half way through the third, with the fourth already downloaded. Kate Daniels is a DCI in the North East, who is haunted by her failure to solve a double murder a year ago. She gets drawn into the investigation of another brutal murder, which she quickly realises is inextricably linked to her somewhat messy personal life. She does nothing about this which complicates matters significantly. The case heads off in all sorts of directions and I didn’t see the solution coming so it kept me on my toes. One of the factors that influences whether I continue with series beyond the first book is whether I warm to the central character(s), and I definitely warmed to Kate and her sidekick so I was left wanting to find out what happened next. On to book two….
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the things I enjoy about coming across a series that has already been running for a few books is that I can read them back to back, and really get immersed in the lives of the central characters. I read this on the back of book one in the series, “The Murder Wall”, and that made it all the more enjoyable. This is despite the fact that the story at times was slightly less believable than the first one. This time round DCI Kate Daniels is leading a complicated investigation into a young woman murdered by being thrown from a great height, and another young woman disappearing. There are lots of dead ends and misinformation but the story builds to a very exciting climax. Once again, DCI Daniel’s private life is a strand of the story, and her sidekick continues to be entertaining. Mari Hannah makes good use of the landscapes and locations available to her in the North East to build a really good landscape in which to base the story. Definitely on to book three now….